Babies and diapers go hand in hand, right? Dirty diapers are an inevitable part of raising children, right? Those slim, plastic lined disposable diapers are your only option, right?
I’ve been wanting to do a post for a while on cloth diapering but after working on My Breastfeeding Journey for nearly 6 months I needed a breather. I knew, much like that post, there was much to be told. So, I’ve decided to break it down into a series of posts that I will put out over a period of time—for my sanity and yours!
Since the invention of disposable diapers in the 40’s, parents have adopted a dependency on them. Their convenience and portability have made daycare, traveling, and life with children more obtainable and just plain easier. In some families, disposable diapers have allowed fathers to be more actively involved in the early stages of parenthood—dirty diaper duty isn’t all on moms now! And as early disposable diapers models evolved, usage skyrocketed.
Now, an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 disposable diapers are used in babies between the 2 ½ to 3 years they wear them, making diaper companies a multi-billion dollar a year business. It’s numbers like these that got me thinking about what exactly I would be putting on my new baby’s highly sensitive skin. Which is ultimately the reason I decided to use cloth diapers. Here are 10 Reasons to Choose Cloth Diapers.
Reason #1- No harsh chemicals
When it comes to chemicals in disposable diapers I usually refer to the Skeptics Rule of Thumb, “Just because it’s not listed, doesn’t mean it’s not in there!”
Dioxin and sodium polyacrylate are two of the most harmful chemicals found in DD (disposable diapers). According to the EPA, the highly toxic dioxin, a chemical by-product that is released into the diaper through the paper bleaching process, has been linked to cancer, reproductive and developmental problems, damage to the immune system, and hormone interference. This chemical is also found in cigarette smoke. Eww! Sodium polyacrylate, also known as Super Absorbent Polymer (SAP), is a white and odorless powder that is added to the inner lining of the diaper. When it gets wet, it turns into a gel-like material that can absorb 30 times its weight in water.
The dust from SAP is known to cause skin irritating conditions that result in severe red, dry, and cracked skin. Sound familiar? If ingested, it can cause respiratory and lung infections. The manufacturer of this chemical recommends an 8-hour exposure limit!
Reason #2- No harmful fragrances
Most modern diapers are laced with all sorts of fragrant chemicals to undoubtingly mask the smell of poop and pee. These harmful scents (the fragrances, not the poop) contain many allergens that can cause skin irritations and dry out your baby’s delicate skin.
Yes, without added perfumes and fragrances, you will certainly smell urine when the diaper becomes saturated. However, the dangerous synthetic chemicals aren’t worth the risk and with a little effort, it’s easy to avoid them. If you must use DD, your best bet is to try and avoid fragrant diapers and wipes when possible. There are many “green” diapers on the market that are perfume and dye free. Just look for labels that say fragrance-free, perfume free, or dye free.
Odds are they still contain dioxin and SAP!
Reason #3- Less diaper rash
Many cloth diapers are made up of natural fibers like cotton and bamboo so they are much more breathable than disposables, which are made of plastics. Disposables also retain heat and moisture which can lead to more rashes.
The harsh chemicals in DD like SAP that I mentioned before are also a factor that leads to diaper rash. Some babies are so highly sensitive to the chemicals that they just can’t wear them.
Reason #4- No harsh dyes
Dyes are used to add color to DD, mostly found on the trim and the front of the diaper. Most of the time your baby’s skin doesn’t come in direct contact with this part of the diaper but when it does, certain dyes have been shown to cause allergic reactions resulting in skin rashes and irritations. Continued exposure to these dyes can cause Diaper Dye Dermatitis, a result of the irritants and allergens in DD.
Reason #5- Cloth diapers are better for the environment
Over 20 billion disposable diapers are dumped into landfills every year. And it can take 1 diaper 500+ years to decompose. That means if Shakespeare had worn disposable diapers, they may still be sitting in a landfill somewhere in the U.K.!
Why so long? It has to do with the way landfills work. In a nutshell, landfills are designed to isolate trash, protecting the environment from the hazardous and toxic items that are occasionally in landfills. Depending on the type of landfill, a barrier is used to contain items dumped in them. These barriers help keep trash from coming into contact with our groundwater and air. When trash is put into a landfill, dirt is then placed in layers on top of it to ensure the waste stays dry. Doing this limits its contact with air and moisture, which just so happens to be the two main components needed for an item to decompose!
Related: Diaper Changing Table Essentials
Reason #6- Poop ends up where it’s supposed to.
Did you know that when changing your baby’s diaper, the poop should be flushed down the toilet before you wrap up the DD and toss it in the trash? This should be done to prevent anyone from coming into contact with the fecal matter, to prevent poop from ending up in landfills that aren’t constructed properly to break down those types of bacterias, and to prevent the waste from coming into contact with our groundwater and contaminating it.
When using cloth diapers, you have to toss the poop into the toilet before you wash the diapers. With the exception of newborn poop because it can be tossed right in the washer. This ensures the waste ends up in a septic tank or the sewage system, which is then properly treated.
Reason #6- Saves money
It will cost between $2,000 to $3,000 per baby when using DD for the 2 ½ to 3 years that babies wear them. Cloth diapers and accessories will cost between $800.00 to $1000.00 (sometimes even less when added to a baby registry) if you wash them yourselves. You can save even more money if you have multiple children because if properly cared for, your cloth diapers can be reused for siblings.
Reason #8- Better air flow
Wearing cloth diapers may protect your baby’s reproductive organs. Natural fibers like cotton and bamboo have better airflow than plastic-lined DD, which retain heat and moisture. Some studies have shown that the build-up of heat and moisture can lead to high scrotal temperatures in boys and yeast growth in girls. In 2000, the Archives of Disease in Childhood published a study that found that boys who wear disposable diapers for prolonged periods may be at higher risk for decreased semen quality and testicular cancer in their adult years. Why?
“The physiological testicular cooling mechanism necessary for normal spermatogenesis is blunted and often completely abolished during plastic diaper use.”
Related: Nursery Dresser Organization
With cloth diapers, you can get a much more snug fit around the waist which prevents poop from going up your baby’s back when they have a particularly runny BM. Even with prefolds (which have no elastic), you can avoid a blowout when the prefold is paired with a waterproof cover (which does have elastic). Disposable diapers have a very loose fit at the baby’s back.
Reason #7- Sustainable
When you take good care of your cloth diapers, they can be reused for multiple children. Establishing an effective wash routine and being consistent will allow for sustainable use. When cared for properly, most diapers can even be used for more than just 2 children, maximizing your financial savings and minimizing the environmental impact.
Reason #10- Makes potty training easier
Disposable diapers are engineered to lock moisture away so your baby doesn’t feel wet. With cloth diapers, however, your baby will feel wet. During the early stages of diapering, I used moisture-wicking liners to prevent my son from feeling wet, especially at night so we could get some extra sleep.
But when potty training is imminent you can remove moisture wicking liners from your cloth diapers routine. This can help ease your child into potty training because most toddlers don’t like the feeling of being wet.
Many parents turn a blind eye (myself included, on occasion) because disposable diapers are easy and convenient. There are obtainable alternatives out there. You just have to look and you have to be open to them. When most people think about cloth diapering, they think about the old-school way of diapering with big cotton cloths and sharp safety pins. Modern cloth diapers have evolved and changed drastically, making them more convenient than the old-fashion cloth diapers your grandma used. Now, they have super absorbent pads, moisture-wicking liners, cute & colorful waterproof covers, fitted shapes similar to disposables, they’re easy to wash at home, and there are no more sharp safety pins!
Check them out—your baby and the environment will thank you.
Related: Diaper Bag Essentials
If you’re interested in the Fisher-Price Potty Chair you can find it a Target.
Check back soon for more of my posts on cloth diapering.
Do you cloth diaper? Have you ever thought about using cloth diapers? Share in the comments below.
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Meagan is in her mid-thirties and has been married for almost 10 years. She is a proud boy mom, happily navigating her way through the toddler years. She met her husband 20 years ago in high school; they got married 10 years later after graduating from the University of South Florida. Meagan currently helps run a family business with her parents and sister, while blogging about her life and taking care of her three-year-old son full time (at work)!
When she isn’t chasing her son around and constantly picking up Matchbox cars, she enjoys spending time with her family on a beach anywhere. She also loves decorating and organizing her home, delving into fun DIY projects, bargain shopping, and eating at unique restaurants. She also loves Barbecue anything and a good show or movie on Netflix.